75 years of Don Bosco! Celebrating the Mumbai school's history, academics and sports
As the Matunga institution completes its platinum jubilee, we celebrate the school’s history, academics and its never-ending tryst with sports
The Don Bosco High School in Matunga. Pics/Suresh Karkera
What is it that makes an educational institute thrive for three quarters of a century? In the case of Don Bosco High School, Matunga, turns out it’s a balanced combination of education and an equal emphasis on sports and extra-curricular activities that has made it one of the city’s champions of all-round education.
Fr Bernard Fernandes, principal
At this significant milestone in the history of the Salesian Mumbai Province, Father Bernard Fernandes, the school’s principal, turns back the clock. “The founding fathers created a remedial system of education based on love and kindness, which we follow even today,” he says, adding, “All that we do, revolves around nurturing the all-round development of our students, so that they can grow up to be honest citizens and god-fearing men.”
Leslie Machado, head coach of the school’s football team
The secret ingredients
It’s the school’s staff — one that Fernandes describes as strong and cooperative — that forms one of the pillars of its success. The school is best known in city circles as one that dominates on the football field and hockey pitch. “Whenever we start a school, we look for a ground first,” says Fernandes, whose institution boasts of a hockey pitch, basketball court, and a full-fledged football field in a city starved of open spaces. “We have dedicated coaches who, in spite of receiving offers for higher salaries from other places, will not migrate. These people have given their life to Don Bosco,” adds a proud Fernandes.
The focus on sports hasn’t been at the cost of academics. Over the years, the school has maintained a 100 per cent record in its SSC results consistently. “Even with new subjects such as Research, which is more commonly taught in ICSE and IGCSE schools, our students have made us proud. Last year, we had sent four research teams for various competitions and all of them managed to reach the state level,” shares Fernandes.
A fine balance
The school’s success in education and sports lies in a well-formulated plan that focuses on nurturing young sporting talent from second grade, along with providing remedial classes for students who need it. “We have a Sports Division — a facility wherein students from the 2nd to the 9th grade dedicate their last two periods to training in respective sports thrice a week,” explains Fernandes. “Playing together for so many years forms a cohesive bond of team spirit among the boys. At the end of the year, coaches of various sports, along with teachers and counsellors, provide feedback to the vice principal. If the kids are not doing well academically, they cannot be a part of the Sports Division.”
The school also employs special educators for children who find it difficult to cope with their academic performance. In Kindergarten, children are taught occupational therapy, which includes acts like learning how to balance, for which parents too are invited to come and watch.
Down memory lane
On May 16, 1928, four Salesians of Don Bosco — Fr Hauber, Fr Dehlert, and Brothers Haughley and Devalle — took over the management of the Educational Institution of the Immaculate Conception, which was then housed in a rented building called Tardeo Castle. Two years later, it changed its name to Don Bosco High School. The school was shifted to Hilltop on Carmichael Road at Cumballa Hill in September 1940, shortly after which, on March 19, 1941, the foundation stone of the new building on a large plot at Matunga was laid by Archbishop Thomas Roberts.
25 years of football coaching
Bosco’s footballing coach Leslie Machado, who was earlier this year nominated as one of the top 10 school sports coaches in Mumbai, began his career at the school in 1991. The veteran, who took over the reigns of the school’s footballing team the following year, holds a six-year unbeaten streak in first-division inter-school football. “Here, we are given a free hand to nurture talent that we will never get anywhere else. Parents are extremely cooperative, too. In fact, most of them want their kids to excel only in sports. We know the boys from an early age; we know their style of play, and their weaknesses and strengths, which are groomed and nurtured for the rest of their schooling years,” says Machado.
Ravi Shastri: “They were the happiest days of my life”
I grew up at Mori Road, Mahim, and there was no school better than Bosco’s for education and the way they encouraged sports. I played every sport — billiards and snooker, table tennis, volleyball, basketball, hockey, football and even tennis. The last sport I played at Bosco’s was cricket. Whilst I was playing tennis, the then cricket coach BD Desai asked me if I ever played cricket and I said, ‘Yes, gully cricket’. He noticed that I used both hands in tennis and thought I would be ambidextrous and said, ‘Try your hand at cricket’. The rest is history. I played cricket in the last two years at school, but since I had played every sport before that, my ball sense was good. Bosco’s played a massive role in my life, more than college. The education stood me in good stead — I nearly graduated with a first-class. If today I am doing the job (TV commentary) that I have been doing for the last 23 years, I must thank the school. It gave me the exposure and confidence to move on in life.
Even though it was a convent school, it was very cosmopolitan. And the education was brilliant thanks to the fathers and teachers — Fr Vincent Vaz, Charles Pharro, Pandey. Fr Adolf, the principal, was instrumental in encouraging me to play. He allowed us to practise after 3 pm, and when we reached the quarterfinals of tournaments, afternoons were off for us. They were the happiest days of my life. The memories of school and to an extent, college, are everlasting. Whenever we pass Don Bosco, I never fail to show my daughter the school I studied in.
As told to Clayton Murzello
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli